The Race To Build Quantum Datacenters
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, has exploded in popularity over the past year. AI uses advanced models to generate its content and requires massive computing power to deploy at scale. Companies like OpenAI sell access to their own models, like GPT-4, to businesses looking to automate processes like copywriting and support chats. Because of the explosive growth in popularity, infrastructure has needed to expand to support the demand. Enter the quantum computing scene.
Quantum computing is currently the most effective way to compute AI’s complex models. Quantum computing is similar to traditional computing which relies on bits (0’s and 1’s) to encode information, whereas quantum computing relies on qubits, which can simultaneously be both 0 and 1. This allows for faster natural language processing (NLP) and higher efficiency in training newer models. IDC published a forecast that the worldwide quantum computing market will grow from $412 million in 2020 to $8.6 billion in 2027. Their thesis is that continued breakthroughs will drive performance and lead to wider adoption.
Development Takes Time
It’s very difficult to bring quantum computing hardware into a standard data center. The equipment needed to manage quantum computers is not the same as that used to manage regular servers because of how much cooling is required when managing qubits.
Qubits must be shielded from all external noise, since the slightest interference will destroy their two state superposition, resulting in calculation errors. Well-isolated qubits heat up easily, so keeping them cool is a challenge. Also, unlike in a classical computer, qubits must start in their low-temperature ground states to run an algorithm. Qubits heat up during calculations, so running several quantum algorithms one after the other means the cooling method must be able to do its job very quickly.
50-Qubit Quantum Computer Nick Summers on Engadget
As seen above, IBM’s 50-qubit quantum computer uses an advanced cooling system to cool itself “from four Kelvin — liquid-helium temperatures — to 800 milliKelvin, 100 milliKelvin and, finally, 10 milliKelvin. Inside the canister, that’s 10 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero” (source ). These quantum computers may be significantly faster at processing AI models, but they require significantly more cooling than a standard server.
Buying a quantum computer could cost you millions , so there aren’t many DIY tutorials available to date. Instead, companies like IBM and Google are working to build out their infrastructure to offer businesses access to their own quantum computers. With the rise in popularity of AI and quantum computing, there are also many startups trying to get involved and compete with the big players.
The Age Of Misinformation
The technology industry moves fast, and businesses are constantly trying to keep up. Different techniques are used to grab the attention of consumers, with some working better than others. Often, it’s up to the consumer to fact-check in a world of misinformation, and not everyone has the time or ability to.
Eternal Mind, INC is an AI-based startup centered in Kennebunk, Maine that promises to help businesses and individuals “take advantage of the power of AI”. In April of 2023, CEO Avery Thomas announced a partnership with Green 4 Maine, LLC to build “the World’s First Quantum Computing Datacenter at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine”. Thomas also used a similar headline on Reddit : “Eternal Mind and Green 4 Maine Announce the World’s First Quantum Computing Datacenter at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine”. Both headlines are misleading because this is not the world’s first quantum data center. IBM already finished building one in New York and opened it in 2019 , and Google has a quantum data center in Santa Barbara .
In fact, Thomas himself commented to WAGM during an interview:
there are other companies on the west coast like Google, IBM and Microsoft that are building up large scale data centers
Shorey IT even reached out to Thomas for comment on the article, for which we received this reply:
The article was meant to say the world[‘s] first quantum computing co-location datacenter because we will be hosting multiple tenants under the same roof.
The article in question still has not been updated at the time of writing.
Regardless of who does what first, building these data centers could ultimately mean more jobs for the area. The development of the infrastructure as well as the ongoing maintenance requires a large team, and places like Aroostook County could use the extra employment opportunities. Additionally, by advancing the area’s technology and infrastructure, more businesses could be willing to open their doors knowing they have the foundation to scale.
How Do You Feel?
What are your feelings about the recent expansion of AI and quantum computing? Would you be comfortable with a quantum data center opening near you?